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Robert Briscoe

Sinn Féin Revolutionary, Fianna Fáil Nationalist and Revisionist Zionist

Kevin McCarthy

This biography reveals the full significance of Robert Briscoe’s influence within the contentious political culture of the early Irish state, as well as reinforcing his importance to the global Zionist rescue effort of the 1930s. Drawing on a wealth of previously unavailable archival material, the book charts Briscoe’s evolution from a fringe Sinn Féin activist in 1917 to a member of Michael Collins’s personal staff in 1921. It also analyses his agonizing decision to abandon Collins and support the anti-Treaty stance of his close friend and political hero, Éamon de Valera, before becoming a founding member of Fianna Fáil in 1926. Most importantly of all, the book investigates Briscoe’s evolving Jewish awareness, looking at his involvement in a traumatic immigration endeavour and also at his engagement with Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the New Zionist Organisation, under whose auspices he led political rescue missions to Poland, America and South Africa.
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Chapter 6: 1935–1937 - Political Reality: Immigration Failure, League of Nations and the New Zionist Organisation (Revisionists)


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1935–1937 Political Reality: Immigration Failure, League of Nations and the New Zionist Organisation (Revisionists)

Ireland’s political direction continued to become increasingly insular in the immediate aftermath of de Valera’s Dáil address, so much so that it was decided to introduce a new Aliens Act in March 1935. Prior to the introduction of the 1935 act, travel and immigration into Ireland had been controlled by legislation passed in the pre-independence period when the country had been an integral part of the United Kingdom. Siobhán O’Connor insightfully suggests that the 1935 act was yet another building-block, albeit a foundational one, in de Valera’s long-term project to ‘define’ the Irish state as an independent entity with ‘borders … distinct from the previous union’ with Britain.1 In many respects the act built on the circumscribed ownership criteria of the 1932 and 1934 Control of Manufactures Acts, and the already limited opportunities for inward migration were dealt a further blow.2

De Valera strongly asserted the right of the state to determine its own policy on citizenship in his opening statement on the second reading of the Aliens Bill saying:

I do not know whether it is necessary to enter into any detailed explanation of this bill or to give any special reason for its introduction … It is obvious that having changed the basis of citizenship … we need in defining as a non-citizen to have a ← 87 | 88 → bill like this....

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